The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
This is the strangest case of video game déjà vu I’ve ever
experienced. After playing through the PC version of Dragon Age last
month, I know these characters, I’ve seen these locations, and I’ve
done these quests. In terms of content, everything in the console
versions of BioWare’s epic fantasy RPG is practically identical to the
PC release. On the other hand, the gameplay drastically changes the
contours of the combat, creating a new landscape littered with familiar
landmarks. By no means is it the same game, but it remains a great
When it isn’t being measured against the successes of
its PC counterpart, this iteration of Dragon Age stands on its own as a
mix of real-time battles and tactical combat. Instead of executing
strategies using the classic pause-and-play approach (a hallmark of the
Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights series), you spend most of your
time in the trenches activating abilities and firing off spells in
rapid succession. Pausing to issue commands is still available, but
fights seem tailored to be action-oriented and less about considering
your options – especially since the lack of an isometric view means
that you rarely have a solid awareness of the whole battlefield.
are mapped to the face buttons, which works particularly well for
characters with a modest selection of skills, like fighters and rogues.
You’ll wade into a group of enemies, use your powers, then attack
normally until your cooldowns are ready to go again. If you plan on
playing as a mage or carefully managing your ally mages, you should
expect to pause combat regularly in order to select the most
appropriate spell from the clunky menu system.
Battles have a
more freewheeling style thanks to the shift away from pause-and-play,
so you’ll want to be confident that your party members aren’t doing
something stupid where you can’t see them. Constantly juggling control
among your various allies throws a wrench in the otherwise smooth flow
of combat, so I’d recommend spending lots of time with your AI
scripting so your pals can fend for themselves. As an unexpected
benefit, I felt more of a connection to my created characters since I
spent more time controlling them directly rather than managing my party
as a whole.
In streamlining combat for consoles, developers
BioWare and Edge of Reality also dialed back the punishing difficulty.
Fights that I won by the skin of my teeth in the PC version were a
breeze this time around, largely because friendly fire is disabled on
the normal difficulty setting. You can spew gouts of flame and conjure
lightning storms with relative impunity, which removes all of the risk
from casting high-level spells. I thought this was lame at first, but
it isn’t without charm; I got lots of laughs using attacks and
strategies that wouldn’t be viable if my allies were in harm’s way.
a fireball into a crowded melee is entertaining, but it represents the
biggest problem with this incarnation of Dragon Age. The
action-focused, low-pressure encounters are fun, but they rarely force
you to truly test your skills. Though you’ll mow down hundreds of
darkspawn and thugs, you’ll rarely feel the satisfaction that comes
with a hard-won victory. Even the spoils of battle are a pain, since
cramped inventory is a pervasive problem, and the only way to truly
solve it is to shell out seven dollars for the Warden’s Keep DLC,
adding a sorely needed storage chest for your excess items. This
feature is a genre standard that should have been in the core package,
and holding it back to make players buy it on launch day is pathetic.
differences in the mechanics, the land of Ferelden is just as vast and
intricate in the console versions of Dragon Age. The involved history
behind the characters and organizations lends the world surprising
depth, though technical hiccups (like an uneven framerate and
occasional glitches) and an awkward interface can hamper your enjoyment
of the content. Your dialogue and interaction options eschew the
traditional good-versus-evil dynamic, instead embracing a more
ambiguous view of morality. The story and its multiple branches will
grab your attention, and the combat – while different in style –
delivers plenty of thrills. I prefer the PC iteration, but it’s still
good on PS3 and 360, and way better than not playing Dragon Age at all.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.